Pending bill could help families of disappeared Thai activists take legal action

A bill awaiting senate approval that criminalises torture and forced disappearances could help parents and partners of missing Thai activists take legal action. Those convicted of political disappearances and torture cases involving death could be imprisoned between 15 and 30 years. After it had been delayed for decades, lawmakers in the house of representatives unanimously passed draft laws on Wednesday. The bill could go to the senate for approval in the next parliamentary sitting in May.

The United Nations estimates that there have been 82 enforced disappearances in Thailand since 1980, but experts say the real number could be higher than that. One notorious enforced disappearance in Thailand is that of activist Wanchalearm Sataksit in 2020. Wanchalearm was an LGBT rights activist, as well as a pro-democracy activist. Once he gained a lot of publicity for his activism against the 2014 coup, he was called to attend a meeting at a military camp. He then fled to Cambodia.

In June 2020, Wanchalearm was kidnapped on the street in broad daylight. His sister was on the phone with him at the time, and told the BBC about her last conversation with him.

“I heard a loud bang. At first I thought he had a car accident as he shouted ‘I can’t breathe, I can’t breathe'”.

Human rights activists say authorities are often involved in cases like Wanchalearm’s, and the perpetrators are rarely brought to justice. A director at Amnesty International Thailand told the Bangkok Post this draft law offers a “glimmer of hope” to grieving families of such victims.

SOURCE: Bangkok Post | BBC

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Tara Abhasakun

A Thai-American dual citizen, Tara has reported news and spoken on a number of human rights and cultural news issues in Thailand. She holds a Bachelor’s Degree in history from The College of Wooster. She interned at Southeast Asia Globe, and has written for a number of outlets. Tara reports on a range of Thailand news issues.